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Disease detectives blame raw, wild boar meat for outbreak

A report on an outbreak of foodborne parasite infections in California in early 2017, published by the CDC, describes how raw, wild boar meat resulted in life-threatening illnesses for several people.

A traditional dish in Laotian and other Asian cuisines is laub, which, as shown here, is often made with minced raw pork.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for March 2 outlines the outbreak and its source, which was found to be a private event where the raw meat was served. The incident occurred in northern California east of San Francisco Bay. It resulted in at least 12 cases of the parasitic infection known as Trichinellosis.

The MMWR article says the traditional Laotian raw pork dish called “larb” was behind the outbreak. The public health chapter of the story began on Jan. 15, 2017, with the report of a patient with the roundworm disease at California’s Alameda County Public Health Department. A diagnosis of trichinellosis shortly included multiple patients.

Initial patients reported attending a private event on Dec. 28, 2016. The hosts served several pork dishes, including the raw larb.

“The event hosts reported that the meat had come from a domesticated wild boar raised and slaughtered on their private family farm in northern California,” the MMWR reported.

Alameda County health officials went on to identify additional cases, test left-over raw meat, and conduct a cohort study to determine risk factors for infection.

Three dozen were exposed to the parasite through raw boar meat eaten at the event or carried out. Health officials interviewed 20 people from the December event. Another 16 were unavailable or unreachable.

The report says strict agricultural and food processing standards have substantially reduced the prevalence of trichinellosis in the United States. But, people who consume raw or undercooked wild meat, or pork from noncommercial sources, remain at risk.

Health officials identified Trichinella spiralis in leftover samples from the domesticated wild boar.

Ten of the 12 trichinellosis cases were confirmed. Two were deemed probable. Nine people required hospitalizations for sepsis and seven suffered from acute kidney damage.

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